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14 Mar, 2024 10:17

South Africa will arrest citizens fighting for Israel – official

Pretoria’s foreign minister says combatants in the Gaza war have been warned about the consequences of their actions
South Africa will arrest citizens fighting for Israel – official

South Africans fighting alongside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, where thousands of civilians have been killed since October, will be arrested when they return home, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has warned.

She reportedly made the statement at a Palestinian solidarity event in the South African capital, Pretoria, over the weekend. Pandor added that IDF troops with dual nationality would be stripped of their South African citizenship as punishment.

“I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and who are fighting alongside or in the Israel Defense Forces. We are ready. When you come home, we’re going to arrest you,” said the foreign minister, according to the Associated Press.

Pretoria previously warned South Africans against joining the IDF in the Israel-Hamas conflict last December, citing the risk of violating domestic and international law. According to the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation, people must obtain government approval before joining Israeli forces, and failure to do so will result in criminal prosecution.

More than 31,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israeli air and ground attacks in Gaza since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the Palestinian militant group’s cross-border attack on October 7.

Hamas launched raids on southern Israeli villages, killing more than 1,100 people and taking hundreds of hostages back to Gaza. According to the UN, 570,000 people in the besieged Palestinian territory are starving, with up to 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents displaced by Israel’s five-month-long bombing campaign.

The Israel-Hamas war has strained diplomatic relations between Israel and South Africa, which has long supported the Palestinian struggle for sovereignty, comparing it to Pretoria’s own battle against Apartheid in the 20th century.

Pretoria has filed a legal action at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for allegedly committing “systematic” war crimes in Gaza. The top UN court has yet to issue a final ruling but it ordered Israel to take steps to prevent genocide and improve humanitarian conditions for Gaza’s population in January.

Last month, the South African government accused Israel of violating the ICJ order. Pandor also claimed that Israeli intelligence had been attempting to intimidate her in response to the genocide investigation.